Dirty Kanza 200

2017 Dirty Kanza Training Plan

In 2015, I offered my personal DK training plan free to anyone that wanted a copy. After sharing a copy with 100’s of folks over the past 2 years, I thought I would update the plan for 2017 and offer it again. So, if you’re looking for a quality training plan that will help you achieve your goals in Emporia, leave a comment and I’ll get a copy to you.

Here’s what a rider that followed the plan last year had to say about the plan:

Training with the plan increased my FTP by about 10% and I’m climbing better than I ever have. The plan was tough, but it helped out very much getting prepared for the 2016 DK200 where about half the field DNF. I made it in to the faster half of my age group (60+ Male). This was my 4th gravel ride ever and my first ultra distance ride. The training along with good mental prep, bike prep and nutrition plan all came together nicely for me. It wasn’t until the last hour really that I noticed my legs getting a bit tired (guess I should have ridden harder!). – Steve

As Steve said, the plan is tough. It is demanding and it will push you.  The results are worth it! The Dirty Kanza is waiting…

And, there’s no catch. I won’t email you or market anything to you. I created this plan for myself (I used it 2 times) but was taken off the bike by an injury suffered while playing baseball. Rather than just let the plan waste away, I thought I would help out as many people as I can so they can show up in Emporia and crush their goal.


DK200 Training Plan

2015 Dirty Kanza Training Plan

Registration for the Dirty Kanza 200 closed today. Now, it’s time to get busy! The good news is you have plenty of time to build base and get ready for the grueling event. If you’re like me, you are probably asking Uncle Google for training advice or even a training plan.

You’re in luck!

I have 3 different training plans that I’m happy to share for free (a reference if you share the plans would be nice, but there’s no expectations. It would also be great to hear how you did and if the plan helped you. Otherwise, I’m just looking to help you have a great DK experience.) The plans range from my personal plan that I designed to help me finish the DK200 in 12 to 13 hours, down to a version for a buddy who wanted to ride the 100-mile DK Half Pint at a comfortable pace. These will not be customized to your individual needs, but they will provide a great starting point!

Drop me a line or leave a comment below if you’re interested and I’ll share a copy with you. They are Google Spreadsheets so sharing is a snap. Or, I can email a copy if you prefer.

Happy training and good luck!

DK200 Training Plan

A Decade of Dirty

The Dirty Kanza 200: Focus

While the Dirty Kanza is still over 6 months away, it seems that everyone is already preoccupied with the event. Conversations about the race have come up on every group ride for the past two weeks. Those conversations continually include the same two questions: “is it really that difficult” and “do you think I could do it?”

The answer to both of those questions is a resounding YES! The Dirty Kanza isn’t just hard. It’s f-ing hard! It is the single hardest bike ride you will ever attempt. But, any person that really wants to finish can finish. The crucial factors are desire, training, and riding within your abilities.

http://xxcmag.com/Having recurring conversations on this topic have forced me to find words to describe the race. In the 3 race reports I’ve written, I always end up saying that words can’t describe the Dirty Kanza. That’s still true today. I still don’t have words to effectively describe the experience of grinding across the Kansas Flint Hills. But, in searching for ways to describe it, I came up with a way of explaining what to expect throughout the day.

The Dirty Kanza is typically broken into 4 sections, with checkpoints around miles 60, 100, 160, and then the finish. It dawned on me this weekend that CP1 is the easiest (shouldn’t be any surprise), and CP2 is the most difficult.

Start to CP1: Reaching CP1 is relatively easy—any trained bike rider can pedal 60 miles. But, how you get there determines how the rest of the day will go. Go too hard here and the day inevitably ends early.

CP1 to CP2: this section, for me any way, is the real test of the day. With the first 60 miles completed, reaching the mid-way point with a clear head and a working bike is the real challenge. It’s not that the section is any more difficult than the others, but rather the mental aspect of what’s ahead. The negative questions (“can I do this”) always seem to come during these miles. This past year, I rolled into the CP2 full of energy and ready for the rest of the day. The previous two years were a completely different story, though. Both times, I reached the second checkpoint concerned and questioning the rest of the day…and in both of those attempts, I ended up dropping out.

CP2 to CP3: I consider these the lonely miles. Be ready for miles on your own. Bring lots of music. Stop and take a few pictures.  Everyone is forced to ride his or her own pace after the first 100 miles. As a result, even those who planned to ride together seem to end up parting ways during this section.

CP3 to Finish: I may not be fully qualified to write about this section considering I’ve ridden it only 1 time. Then, I was fully energized and riding faster than I rode all day. I’d like to say that is what can be expected, but I’m more realistic than that. I had a great ride during the last section because I rode well under my threshold all day. But, there’s a big lesson in that! Stay focused throughout the day and the end comes easy.

The key ingredient for a successful DK200 is focus. You have to get your mind into the challenge of the day and you have to keep the negative thoughts away. A solid training plan, specific nutrition, and sharp appreciation of what’s ahead will help get you there. And, like I’ve told everyone that’s asked, if you’re thinking about trying the Dirty Kanza, you absolutely should! Sign up, train hard, and go for it!

2012 Dirty Kanza 200 by the Numbers

I finally entered data from the Dirty Kanza into my training log and thought I’d share some of the numbers.

Dirty Kanza Stats

  • Racers Entered: 420 – New Record
  • Finishers: 267
  • Finish Rate: 64% – New Record
  • Official Distance: 202.2
  • Winning Time: 11:56:01 – New Record
  • Winner: Dan Hughes, Sunflower Outdoor Sports, Lawrence, KS

My Numbers

  • Total Miles: 207.3 (rode from the hotel)
  • Total Time: 15:29:00
  • Bike Time: 13:18:20
  • Overall Place: 97th
  • Veterans Men Place: 26th out of 154

Geek-out Numbers

  • Calories burned: 15,865 kcal
  • Feet climbed: 7,671
  • TSS: 772
  • IF: 0.65
  • Pedal strokes: 75,000

Food Consumed

  • 8 Homemade Banana-berry Energy Bars
  • 2 Bags Emerald Berry-nut Blend
  • 3 Honey Stinger Waffles
  • 8 Hammer Gels
  • 2 Pickles
  • 1 Jar Pickle Juice
  • 192 oz Water
  • 72 oz Cytomax
  • 1 20 oz Coca-Cola (thanks Ben!)
  • 6″ Turkey Sandwich from Planet Sub
  • and a Bag of Chips

2012 Dirty Kanza 200: Racing the Kansas Sun

I rolled into the 3rd check point in Council Grove (mile 164) with a chest full of confidence. “This year, it’s mine!” I knew without a doubt that I would finish the 200-mile loop of gravel and low-maintenance roads through the Kansas Flint Hills. I grabbed the map for stage 4 and then found Traci and the boys sitting in the shade of a huge oak tree. I was more than ready to join them after spending the past 4 hours pedaling in the blazing sun.

The stretch from Florence to Council Grove was demanding. Not only was it the longest section of the course, it also came during the hottest hours of the day. And, while it was cooler this year than in years past, there was no relief from the sun. At some point, I spotted the shade of rare roadside tree and without thinking I pulled over, stopped and had that conversation with myself: “can I keep going?” This time, though, it wasn’t the same banter as the two previous years. I felt fine…even great. The shade just seemed the right place at that moment. I took a minute to cool down and then was back in the saddle and pedaling to Council Grove.

Council Grove needed to be a quick stop because I lost serious time fixing my bike at check points one and two. I wanted to eat a little real food, fill the bottles and strap on the lights. But, when I stepped off the bike, my feet reminded me just how demanding and intense this race really was. Searing pain shot through both feet, all of my toes were numb, and both arches felt like rubber bands that had been stretched too tight for too long. Walking was more painful than the grind up Texaco Hill–not good considering foot pain ended my ride last year.

I quickly removed my shoes and sunk into a camp chair. I propped up my feet and felt an immediate rush of relief as the blood flowed back into my legs. As I sat there eating with my feet resting high above my head, I realized this stop was going to take a lot longer than planned. Sitting there also gave me time to understand what was happening. I was riding the DK200 with relative ease. That, of course, lead to thoughts that I should be pushing harder.

Almost if on cue, Traci asked, “so what do you think about while you’re out there?” I paused before answering while I considering what I was about to say, “being out there.” It never really dawned on me until then but my thoughts all day were completely focused on the Dirty Kanza. Of course Dirty Kanza means so many things: just finishing; am I going to hard, too easy; the unbelievably barren landscape; eat!; all the clicks and pops coming from the bike–is something broken; drink!; old stone barns slowly crumbling back to earth; the absolute seclusion of the rolling terrain. I know my answer didn’t mean much to her, but I didn’t know how to explain what happens on the roads between each check point.

After sitting for a little more than an hour, I quickly stood up and stated that it was time to go. Zach helped me strap on the lights and I was off. I rolled slowly through town while I considered my options: take it easy and enjoy the ride or burn off some excess energy. I chose the latter and soon found myself cruising along at the fastest speeds of the day. Doing the math occupied my thoughts: 40 miles, less than 2 hours until sundown, gravel and rolling terrain…my original goal was to finish in under 13 hours. When it was obvious that wasn’t possible, I set my focus on beating the sun; I wanted to see downtown Emporia in the light of day. But, the hour-long break put me pretty far behind schedule. So I sped up. I had no worries about blowing up, burning matches, or not finishing. I wanted to see blue sky at the finish line. I rushed past a rider and his cheer made me smile. “Get it!” was all I heard.

Small groups of bystanders cheered as I rolled through Americus. (How cool is it that people in the area spend all day encouraging riders to push on! There’s a reason the Dirty Kanza is so popular.) The sun was just on the horizon as the small town’s road abruptly turned from pavement to gravel. With a little more than 10 miles to go, I accepted the fact that the sun had won. But, I was going to finish, which was my real goal this year.

I turned on the front light as I rolled on to Highway 99. A quick look over my right shoulder revealed a thin blue line on the horizon. That close. The competitor in me was soon overwhelmed by the excitement of the finish line. A rush of enthusiasm smacked me in the face as the spotters on the ESU campus called out my number: “0-3-2.” Hearing him rattle off the numbers one at a time sent chills through me. I popped a wheelie as I bounced off the curb. The noise of the crowd washed over me as I pedaled faster and faster down Commerce Street.

I rolled under the giant banner marking the finish line with both hands in the air. Three hours had passed since the winners crossed the line, but I didn’t care. I had won my own race today. Finding Traci, Caleb and Zach waiting there for me pretty much sealed the deal. The challenge of the Flint Hills was behind me. And, just like they–all the previous finishers say, nothing compares to the feeling of being there, at the finish line, knowing that on this day, I beat the Flint Hills of Kansas.

Waiting to start

Waiting at the Start. Image by www.star-cards.net.

DK200: Rolling into Check Point 1

Rolling Into Check Point 1 with a Rider from Colorado. Image by www.star-cards.net

Dirty Kanza Wrap Up

Last year, I wrote that the only way to truly appreciate the Dirty Kanza, a 200-mile adventure race across the Flint Hills of Kansas was to experience it. Then, I wondered if the words were a bit dramatic and only in response to the fact that I dropped out after 140 miles. Going back and trying again this year solidified the sentiment: the Dirty Kanza can’t adequately be described in words. Pictures might help, but even they “flatten” the grueling landscape into picturesque scenes of rolling prairie.

This year, the organizers promised more gravel and more hills. At the start, Jim even mentioned the possibility that Cameron Chambers’ sub 12-hour record might fall. According to him, the course was abnormally fast because much of the gravel was pressed into the road bed during the spring rains. As we soon learned, his claim was spot on; what he failed to mention were the endless hills during the first 100 miles. Add in heat, strong heads winds out of the southwest and a pop-up thunderstorm, and the Flint Hills proved once again that just finishing this race is winning…something I have yet to experience.

I wish I had grand stories of sloshing through ankle deep mud, seeking shelter from funnel clouds, or even fighting around the course in survival mode. But, this year I simply didn’t have any fight in me. Even at the start line I knew something was wrong. Instead of excitement and eagerness to hit the gravel, I felt apprehensive and lethargic. I learned the hard way that there is no suffering or fighting through it when if your mind isn’t into it.

The start was fast as always. Just like last year, I watched as the front group sped away…only this year the group swelled to what looked like 30 or more racers. I sat up and watched as a chase group formed and marched off across the hills. I rode alone for several miles and then started picking up stragglers that had fallen from the front two groups. Before long, I was in a peloton of 20 or more riders. We were riding at a fast pace, but with so many working together, the effort was very easy. We stayed together until the rolling hills leading up to Texaco Hill. Then, the group slowly dwindled until I was riding alone again. I caught two more over the top of Texaco and rode with them until the first check point.

As I started rolling out for the second leg, Ben, Rick, and David rolled in, claiming they were making it a quick stop. So I decided wait for them. We rolled out, ready for a fast 40-mile leg thanks to the strong SSW wind that would be mostly at our backs.

Around mile 80, Rick yelled, “Stop!”



“Oh shit. Is that what it looks like?”

“Yelp. A large group is riding towards us.”

We scanned the map while we waited for them to reach us. Turns out we all missed a turn several miles back. Fortunately, back was north so the wind would be pushing us back on course. The missed turn was onto an infamous Dirty Kanza “cut through” that connected together country roads. This one dropped down, down, down, a rock (not gravel) littered trail that finally reaching two creek crossings. All the down meant only one thing: up. The road rolled and climbed for the next 10 miles, before leveling off for the final run into the second stop, in Florence.

During the drop to the creek crossing, my head started pounding. I don’t know if it was the banging and bucking, dehydration, or both, but the pain was blinding. I dropped off the back of the group and started drinking water with Camelbak Elixir. Just as the headache started to let up my feet started burning. I’m not sure if it was hot foot or something else, but I’ve never felt foot pain that intense. I loosened my shoes and took advantage of every downhill to unclip and flex my feet. Both brought some relief but the pain only worsened with each pedal stroke. Seeing the Florence grain elevator on the horizon was the only thing that kept me from pulling over. During those 10-15 miles, I argued about what was next: in or out? I decided I would take an extended break, eat some lunch, and then decide.

I limped into Florence, found Traci and the boys and ripped off my shoes. I sat for 20 minutes with my feet up before I felt any relief. While I sat there, Eric stopped by and mentioned that he was suffering like crazy but was fighting on. I also watched Jim roll out, looking fresh as he did on the line. While I was eating, I convinced myself that I had to go on. So I suit up again. Before I left, I rolled over to the gas station for a quick piss break. I rolled up and found Rick and David talking outside. David suddenly started feeling sick and decided not to go on. Something about talking with him–nothing he said, more the voice in my head–convinced me that I shouldn’t continue. I rolled back to the car, loaded my gear and drove home.

David called just as we left Emporia to tell me that a strong storm blew in, stranding Ben and Rick on the course. The once fast gravel turned to mud too thick for bicycles. I checked radar and felt a sudden rush of relief, not for the storm or the riders that were surely stuck out in the condition, but more for my decision to stop. There’s no way I would have fought through rain and mud. As difficult as it was to drop out, seeing the boiling storm on radar confirmed my decision.

Now, with two DNF’s under my belt, the question is next year? Today, the answer is why bother. But, with probably too much bike time in the past 2 months, that will surely change, especially as registration approaches.